The Bills sorely missed Marcell Dareus in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins.
The Bills’ defense has been getting great production out of a mostly unheralded cast. It entered the game ranked 12th in yards allowed and fifth in points allowed. But good scheme can’t carry a defense forever in the NFL. At some point elite talent is what it takes to get stops.
The Bills needed the eight or nine disruptive plays in the backfield Dareus is supposed to be giving them in order to contain Miami’s breakout runner, Jay Ajayi.
Here were Ten Plays That Shaped the Game:
1. Pile-driver TD. Miami’s go-ahead touchdown was a 12-yard run by Damien Williams with 3:56 left. He broke four tackles on a cutback to the weak side against a light defense in nickel personnel. Laremy Tunsil and Mike Pouncey double-teamed Leger Douzable at the point of attack. Douzable dove at Williams’ legs but couldn’t slow him down. Zach Brown was the linebacker on that side but got blocked on the second level by Tunsil.
2. Dart on the run. The key play on the go-ahead drive was a third-and-7 pass from Ryan Tannehill to Jarvis Landry for 18 yards to the Buffalo 28. It was Tannehill’s best play of the game. He floated a perfect over-the-middle pass on a dead run to his star receiver, who made a late (but not flagrant) shove on Nickell Robey-Coleman before the catch.
3. Breakaway run. Jay Ajayi broke a 53-yard run early in the fourth quarter from the Miami 3 to the Buffalo 47. It didn’t lead directly to points, but it flipped the field position at a critical time in the game. The Bills had six men on the line of scrimmage, making it easier for Ajayi to get to the second level. Preston Brown over-ran the play and got sealed off. Then the powerful Ajayi ran through the arms of both safety Robert Blanton and linebacker Zach Brown at the 11 in a display of power reminiscent of ex-Dolphin Ricky Williams. He was in the clear.
4. Flash TD. The Bills finally burned a Miami defense that was overcommitting to the run when Tyrod Taylor hit Marquise Goodwin for the 67-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Mike Gillislee made a nice pickup block on blitzing linebacker Donald Butler. With eight defenders in the box, safety Michael Thomas had no chance to get over in time.
5. Slippery. Missed tackles were the theme of the day for the Bills. The big gainer on Miami’s third-quarter TD drive was a 22-yard pass to Landry. Robey-Coleman missed a tackle at the Bills’ 46. It should have been a 6-yard gain.
6. Insurance TD. Ronald Darby had good coverage on Kenny Stills’ 66-yard TD catch that gave Miami a 28-17 lead. But Stills adjusted to an underthrown pass to make the catch, then safety Jonathan Meeks overran the play and collided with Darby at the Bills’ 35 to let Stills waltz into the end zone.
7. Mesh point. Taylor’s sleight of hand on the fake read-option handoff to Reggie Bush utterly fooled Miami defensive end Cameron Wake and the television camera man. Both focused on Bush. Taylor pulled the ball out of Bush’s belly and ran off a wide open right tackle for a 10-yard TD. Charles Clay blocked Miami safety Isa Abdul-Quddus at the 5.
8. Stretch play. Ajayi beat the Bills on stretch plays all day. A 14-yard cutback to the Buffalo 14 helped set up the go-ahead TD. Lorenzo Alexander was the weak-side edge defender who wasn’t fast enough to crash down on Ajayi’s cutback.
9. Blocked punt. Lerentee McCray beat edge protector Damien Williams with a swim move to the inside and partially blocked a second-quarter punt to set up the Bills at the Miami 40. It led to Taylor’s TD.
10. Head shot. The problem on the play on which Aaron Williams was injured wasn’t that he took a blind-side hit from Landry. It was that Landry hit him in the head with the shoulder-first block. Landry didn’t need to go that high. The Bills missed Williams in the second half.